No link between Covid-19 surge and new variants

New coronavirus variants not reason for rise in cases in Maharashtra, Kerala

The Centre has dispatched teams to the states in which there is a surge of Covid-19 cases to discover the cause for this surge

Representative image/Credit: PTI File Photo

Health officials on Tuesday denied any link between the current Covid-19 upsurge in Maharashtra and a few other states with new variants of the virus found in India, even as the Prime Minister's Office reviewed the intervention strategies in the wake of the sudden rise being seen for the last six days.

NITI Ayog member Vinod Paul said Indian scientists recorded the presence of mutations – tiny changes in the virus genetic makeup – like N440K and E484K in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana. Also, three other mutated strains -- one each from the UK, South Africa and Brazil are already present in the country.

The E484K strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July 2020. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.

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“But there is no reason for us to believe, on the basis of scientific information, that they are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala,” said Paul, a former professor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.

The clarification comes days after a Maharashtra government official blamed the emergence of new variants behind the sudden rise in the number of new infections in the western state that was the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic for months.

Balram Bhargava, Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research also corroborated with Paul. “The current upsurge in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to the currently discussed point mutations. However, the situation is being constantly monitored. As further scientific evidence emerges, it shall be duly shared,” he said.

The Union Health Ministry has dispatched teams to six states – Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh - and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to find out the reasons behind the sudden increase of Covid-19 cases, which was on a downhill all over the country barring Kerala since mid-September.

Also Read | Punjab orders fresh curbs on indoor, outdoor gatherings as Covid-19 cases rise

"There is an incremental decline in Kerala but since a large number of cases are still being reported, it is a matter of concern,” said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. The Malabar state accounts for nearly 38% of active Covid-19 cases in India. Nearly 75% of active cases come from Maharashtra and Kerala.

One of the tasks cut out for the central team is to find out whether such an increase in the number of cases was due to Covid-19 inappropriate behaviour or any super-spreader event. The central team would also brief the state officials on their findings.

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